August 11, 2001
As I plan another cruise (QM2), I fondly recall the good time I had on the Victory. The weather sucked - our second day out of NYC - a brilliantly sunny day suddenly, without warning, ruined by a fog bank that lasted until the day before we returned to New York. But the ship itself, my cabin, the food and entertainment - were just wonderful.
Departure Day: I caught a Greyhound bus from Philadelphia to the NYPA. It was raining the entire time and only let up as we arrived in New York. I arrived in NYC at around 3 PM. I ran out of money and had to ask the cabbie to stop four blocks from the pier. I carried by suitcase to the inside of the pier, asked a security guy to watch it and also ask him where the nearest ATM was. THAT took another 30 minutes, but I found one at some check cashing place, got $100 and ran back to the pier, where I was able to flag down a porter by flashing some cash. It was only then that I looked out the window to see this massive white wall that was the Carnival Victory. Check in was a little rushed, but not bad. This was only my third cruise (Azure Seas 1988, Viking Serenade 1991, and my Navy cruises on three ships, obviously they don't compare). As I was traveling alone, I didn't want to do the picture thing, but they kind of pressured me into it. I ended up not buying it. Finally I was onboard a ship after ten years!!! It was great. I was a little worried about sailing Carnival, as I had been told that their ships were so gaudy and tacky, but not the Victory. The atrium is a tad glitzy, but the glitz was tempered by the use is dark wood panelling and carpeting.
Cabin: 1202 on Riviera Deck. I paid the single supplement (I booked online), and I saved a couple hundred bucks - it all came out to around $900USD. For one person, the cabin was quite large for one person. It was a cabin with upper/lower berths, the upper berth being tucked away in the ceiling. The cabin was done in burnt orange and burgundy reds - not overtly luxurious, but attractive and comfortable. Somehow I got into this spa tour where they bomboarded us all with spa treatments and products. I walked away during some speech about a mudbath.
I went to the Meditteraean Buffet and was a little disappointed - they had only bologna, ham and processed American cheeses available with some stale white bread. Iced tea and lemonade were available though. I then took a look at the upper level of the Pacific Dining Room, where I would be eating, late sitting. Everything looked quite tasteful, with brass railings, glass balustrades and pink and brown accents. The boat drill commenced and I went to my cabin to get my life jacket - I am an ex-Navy man and I take these things very seriously. It lasted for around fifteen minutes and then I went to the Lido Deck so I could watch our departure - it was fun, but I was surprised by how many tacky people were onboard - people were spitting, picking their noses and all of that - I could only hope my tablemates in the dining room were not like this. I spotted the QE2, the then Caronia (now sailing for Saga Cruises) and the Celebrity twins Zenith and Horizon. It was still cloudy, but humid and muggy. I went down to my cabin and slept for about two hours. Then I woke up, showered, got dressed and inspected the rest of the ship. I was impressed by how tasteful it was. I loved the Martini Bar, but thought it was kind of stupid to place it underneath the disco. Internet access was a bit expensive, but logon time was okay.
Dining: Not outstanding, but decent. I only ate dinner in the dining room. For breakfast and lunch it was the buffet or Lido. Nothing was bad, but nothing stood out other than their prime rib. Apparently Carnival has contracted with an entire county in Iowa that does nothing but produce cows to make beef for them - the prime rib was exquisite. In the dining room, I had a slightly dry quail with sauce, some decent seafood, and some really nice creme brulee. Salads were disappointing.
Entertainment: The three level Caribbean Show Lounge was massive - and the comedian and singers and dancers were okay, but nothing to get too excited over. I really liked the beautiful Adriatic Lounge, that had a very good band from the Philippines, and the Black and Red Seas Lounge, that featured karaoke, and pretty strong drinks.
Itinerary: St. John's New Brunswick is one of the most boring ports I've ever been to - there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for me there that was of interest. I got a nice lobster roll and found a bookstore that specializes in rare books, which happened to be a block away from an XXX-rated porno shop. People who took the Reversing Falls tour told me how disappointed they were. The weather was still cloudy and misty too. I made some calls home at the pier and went back to the ship.
Halifax, Nova Scotia: LOVED it. A very pretty town with great architecture and historical sites. The Maritime Museum is just wonderful and featured exhibits from the Empress of Ireland disaster from 1906, the Titanic disaster of 1912 and the little known 1917 catastrophe when two munition ships collided with each other, creating an explosion that destroyed half of the city and killed almost 1800 people. We saw clothes and furniture that had been preserved from the disaster. It was kind of touching.
I opted for the Afro-Canadian tour to the Black Cultural Center. Canada has a small black population compared to the US, but this was an amazing tour, so informative and fun. I learned about Sam Langford, the only black boxer to beat African-American champ Jack Johnson. After Johnson fought him, he vowed never to fight another black man. And the story of the "Rosa Parks of Canada", Viola Desmond, who got arrested because she sat in the "whites only" section of the movie theatre. She sued the province - and won. We also learned about Africville, where most of the Afro-Canadians in Nova Scotia lived until the government forcibly removed them so they could put a powerplant in their neighborhood. I found it all absolutely fascinating. We were going to the black rural farmlands where the descendants of the Maroons lived, but the weather acted up and that was cancelled. The Maroons are black descendants of slaves who rebelled against the white Jamaican government back in the late 1700's and 1800's who after their defeat, were exiled to Nova Scotia. That would have been great to see.
The weather just wouldn't cooperate. The first sea day was so sunny, I went out on one of the tiered Lidos with my CD player and my Jill Scott CD, found a deck chair and ordered a mimosa. An hour later, I hear the Victory's fog horn and I open my eyes and the SUN IS GONE - SUN took a SERIOUS vacation and the fog snuck up on us like a burglar. But I made use of the Promenade Deck, which was surprisingly empty - just me and a couple of elderly couples. I am one who can totally watch the ocean and become hypnotized, regardless of the weather. The nights were the best, especially after dinner - to be on deck at night, a drink in your hand, just listening to the sea go by. The smell of the sea is amazing. I wasn't into the casinos so much - they steal your money from you. But I liked the Black and Red Seas Bar and the Irish Sea Bar and the Wine Bar, whose name I forget right now. But Victory's public spaces were quite pretty. No public room on this ship was garish or vulgar - not even the casinos. I did not go to the Patisserie, where they served slivers of cheesecakes and coffee for what I thought were ridiculous prices.
Overall: Victory is a lovely ship; if the weather had cooperated, the cruise would have been better. It also would have been better if Victory didn't have its Tacky People magnet attached to its hull - so many of the passengers were so gross and vile - people spitting on the Lido Deck, the obnoxious teens and I so witnessed people on my deck going to the Jacuzzis first thing in the morning without washing up or anything - I totally avoided the pools and Jacuzzis for that reason - I was worried about catching some skin disease.
Disembarkation: I opted for the do-it-yourself thing, and got off with no problems. All in all, a very nice cruise. Carnival is totally cool in my book.